Street artist Banksy has lost his trademark battle with greeting card company, Full Colour Black, over its use of his Flower Thrower stencil mural, which he painted on a wall on the side of a garage in Jerusalem back in 2005.
Although his representatives had successfully applied for an EU trademark of the image back in 2014, this decision has now been overturned after a two-year dispute. Full Colour Black, who sell products that are printed with images of his work, argued that Banksy’s 2014 trademark should not stand because the artist did not utilize it and that he only ever applied for the trademark to stop “the ongoing use of the work which he had already permitted to be reproduced.”
Unfortunately for the elusive artist, he appears to have shot himself in the foot by setting up a bricks and mortar gift shop, Gross Domestic Product, in Croydon, south London, with the sole purpose of creating commercialising goods and thus, stopping the lawsuit (the artist had put a notice in the window explaining as much). This plan was not welcomed by the panel who claimed
“his intention was not to use the mark as a trademark to commercialise goods … but only to circumnavigate the law. These actions are inconsistent with honest practices.”
And why is he relying on trademark law instead of the more traditional copyright laws that protect art? Well, Banksy is unable to rely on copyright law to protect his art because he can’t be identified as the unquestionable owner because, yes, you guessed it, his identity is unknown.
“Banksy has chosen to remain anonymous and, for the most part, to paint graffiti on other people’s property without their permission, rather than to paint it on canvases or his own property,” the panel said.
The EUIPO ordered Banksy to pay for the costs and fees incurred by Full Colour Black. If Banksy plans to appeal the decision, he must file within two months. Given the inherent risk to all his other trademarks, one suspects we haven’t seen the last of this one!